Amy Macdonald: Songs in the key of life – from Glasgow

Amy Macdonald isn't your average pop star. She writes positive songs, refuses to relocate to London, and has a footballer boyfriend yet hasn't sold her privacy to the tabloids. David Sinclair meets her

Amy Macdonald is a pretty big pop star. The Scottish singer and songwriter, who broke through in 2007 with her debut album and single, This is the Life, has sold four million albums, and topped the charts not only in Britain but right across Europe.

Indeed, in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and elsewhere, she is way more popular than acts such as Florence and the Machine or Jessie J. But when it comes to playing the fame game, Macdonald still hasn't got the hang of it.

"I don't see myself as any different from anybody else and I never have done," she says. "If I've done a gig and at the end there are people waiting for autographs, they always seem nervous, but they probably don't realise that I'm more nervous than them. I get very embarrassed. I think, 'why are these people waiting out in the cold for me to ruin their nice CD with my scrawled signature?'"

Macdonald is the anti-diva. Polite, sensible, modest and still only 24, she defines herself in militantly ordinary terms. I find her sitting alone in the corner of a deserted restaurant in the Merchant City area of her beloved home town Glasgow. Pale and slender, she is nursing a bottle of water. It is a hot summer day, but she wears a cardigan which she pulls tighter round her shoulders every so often. She has come to talk up her new album, Life in a Beautiful Light, another collection of heartfelt, buoyant, pop-rock songs with catchy choruses that are already spilling on to the Radio 2 playlist. Once again the album has the word "life" in the title, for this is her big theme: the mystery, the beauty, the wonder, and, most importantly, the joy of it all.

"It was very easy to name this album," she says. "I took a year out to write it and I was at home in Glasgow the whole time. I was so happy and relaxed and positive and Life in a Beautiful Light just seemed perfect, because it summed up exactly how I felt."

As with her rejection of celebrity status, Macdonald doesn't subscribe to the fashionable notion that the serious songwriter must undergo a process of hard knocks and emotional turmoil.

"A lot of people in the music business are a bit doom and gloom," she says. "People say it's probably easier to write sad songs than it is to write happy ones, so that's maybe why. I just wanted to be a bit positive about things rather than always being negative."

Macdonald doesn't shy away from serious or difficult subjects – if anything, quite the reverse. "Left That Body Long Ago" tells the touching story of her grandmother's terminal decline due to Alzheimer's disease, while "Across the Nile" is an emotional response to the events which unfolded in Egypt during the Arab Spring. But she always manages to find a positive spin. In "The Green and the Blue", a scrupulously balanced song about the Celtic and Rangers football teams, she even manages to tease out an upbeat message from a local rivalry that has traditionally acted as a lightning rod for bitter sectarian hostilities.

"There's so many decent people who aren't like that, but who are really passionate about their clubs," she says, "And all their life is based around football, and I just think that if that makes them happy then that's not a bad thing." Macdonald moves through a pop world of garish excess with a quiet sense of decorum and an unshakable belief in her place in the scheme of things. Her fierce loyalty to her Scottish hearth and home is in some ways the key to her unpretentious nature. She lives with her boyfriend, the recently retired Partick Thistle footballer Steve Lovell. But there is not much danger of them becoming the new Posh and Becks.

"We don't have the whole paparazzi celebrity culture up here," she says. "Being in Glasgow it's really easy to remain the same. I still have all the same friends I had when I was at school. I'm much more comfortable in a dingy old pub than I would be at some glittering ball."

Macdonald's Scottish background runs through her music like the writing through a stick of rock. She was born in Bishopbriggs, a suburb in the north of Glasgow which was "a nice place to live, not overly posh". She had a happy childhood: "I've never had any major trauma or anything like that."

Inspired by the music of Travis, Oasis and other Britpop bands of the 1990s, she taught herself to sing and play guitar, and began writing her own songs. She was smoothly plucked from obscurity after answering an advertisement in the NME by the production company run by the husband-and-wife team of Pete Wilkinson and Sarah Erasmus, who quickly secured her a major label deal with Mercury Records.

Since then, Macdonald has enjoyed an almost eerily stable career. She is still managed and produced by Wilkinson and Erasmus, who have become her second family in the south ("they care for me, the same as I do about them"). She is still signed to Mercury. She still has the same band, who play with her on the album and on the road ("I've made friends for life with all of them"). Her new album was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, who mixed her debut ("It's as if he knows what I'm thinking. Everything is always right.")

And what if this charmed pop-star life should all end tomorrow, unlikely as it seems? She appears unfazed by the idea. She would continue to write songs, which her publisher would pitch to other performers – indeed, she has already started doing this. Or else, she says, with disarming candour, she would look for work as a tour manager. "I think I'm quite organised, and I definitely have the sort of personality that would quite like to do that kind of job."

'Life in a Beautiful Light' by Amy Macdonald is released by Mercury on 11 June. She plays the T in the Park festival, Kinross, on 7 July

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor